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What should I do if I've enrolled in a badly organized course?

What should I do if I've enrolled in a badly organized course?

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manpreet Tuteehub forum best answer Best Answer 1 year ago

 


I am nearly finished with my master's degree. Recently, I enrolled in a required course that is a terrible mess. I'd like to wait another year, and take it again with an instructor who has their stuff together and will actually answer student questions and prepare lessons that match the exams. Delaying graduation seems preferable to wasting more time on this course.

  • Some classmates gave the teacher what I believe are reasonable suggestions, but the instructor just gave excuses.
  • I looked all through the course catalog, but only see policies that assume students are the problem-makers. For instance, after one week into the term, students get no tuition refunds and a "W".
  • I'd rather not create problems for the instructor, who is new to this job.

Are there any steps I can take to clear myself of this mess?

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manpreet 1 year ago


some have suggested complaining or going to some authority, but offer no specific suggestions about how to do this

First, you need to understand how the authority chain is structured in academia. Your first course of action is to confront the instructor, which you've already done. The next step up would be the department head, and after that, the dean of the school – but I wouldn't recommend going past the department head with your complaints.

You need to do this very carefully. You need to be level-headed, respectful, factual, and specific. Be sure your case is compelling. In the event of a "he-said/she-said" debate, assume the department head will probably lean toward having the faculty member's back, rather than believing an offended student. Many students are too quick to complain when things don't go their way, making it easy for complaints to fall on deaf and jaded ears.

For example, in the scant details you've provided here:

  • Assignments are graded without rubric.
    I won't dispute the value of rubrics, but this is hardly a grievous offense. Many instructors don't opt to use rubrics.

  • Homework is graded inconsistently with instructions.
    This will be very hard to prove. A lot of assignments are by nature subjective, and it's hard to pinpoint why grades are given the way they are. Students often turn in work that is inconsistent. For example, say I assign some problem to be answered with an essay question. One student gets right to the heart of the matter, but the overall work is sloppy, and it reads like a draft that was hastily written 10 minutes before class. Another misses the point a little bit, but the essay is carefully crafted and has a lot of supporting detail. A third addresses the matter from an angle I hadn't considered before. How are my instructions supposed to cover all those cases, and more? (Moreover, assignment instructions are often very hard to get right the first time around, because you don't yet know how students might misinterpret stated requirements.)

  • Tests are very hard, but contain no relationship to the course assignments and lessons.
    The first part of that is not a problem, although the second part is. If you start out by complaining about difficult tests, you may come across as a whiner and get very little sympathy or support. Be very careful about even mentioning that "tests are very hard."

You'll also have to figure out what you want the end goal of your complaints to be. Do you want action taken before the semester is over? Or are you only looking to give feedback so that next year's students don't find themselves in the same unfortunate circumstances? If you're hoping for intervention this term, probably the best you could hope for is for the department head to counsel the instructor, urging him to get his act together before the end of the term. But there are two sides to every story, and, unless your complaints are true on a large level, you're unlikely to get much sympathy. In other words, a bad question here and there on an exam is part of getting a new course underway, as are confusing assignments. If these are just normal "growing pains," you'll come off as a malcontent. On the other hand, if these are verifiable, wholesale shortcomings in the ability to conduct a course fairly and effectively, you might get a department head to step in, and urge the professor to get his act together. Even then, though, you'll probably have to make it to the end of the course, and you might see very little improvement. It's unlikely that the instructor will be reassigned midstream.

In short, you'll have to convince the department head that this faculty member is bordering on incompetence, and that it's not merely a case of an unpopular professor. This might be a tough sell.


 
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